Okay, so don’t judge this post by its title, but seriously, did you know they took gullible out of the dictionary? So that last line was lame. But once upon a time I believed in that line for a very long once upon a time, until I grew up and got all mature and I, um, still believed everything. I really wondered what was wrong with me. Maybe I’m just young? Naïve? Need to get a grip? Why must I want to believe in every strange thing or story people tell me?
I tried to think back to my childhood days, maybe it all stemmed from there? I was a weird little kid. Like one of those kids who would stare at strangers for so long at the carnival, ice cream would melt off my waffle cone and all over my hand.
Kind of like this...
And everyone walking by would say something like, “Don’t make eye contact with that creepy kid in overalls. Remember that horror movie we saw last night? Yeah, that. Seriously don’t. Stop it!” --I was collecting these people into my thoughts. What they wore, how they talked, and things they said were fascinating—people fascinated me. They still do.
As a writer I visualize my brain in two sections, one being reality and the other being fictional reality. Yes, my fictional reality exists in my head as, well, reality. It has to or I’m not going to be able to craft a believable world onto the page.
I’ve met many amazing people in the book business and the ones who are successful will often say two things to aspiring writers--are you listening? Are you watching?
You may be thinking to yourself, but listening and watching strangers? Isn’t that also called staring? Stalking? If you’re thinking, THISGIRLISTRYINGTOTELLMETOSTALKPEOPLE! Truly, I’m not. But what I am saying is that we need to be more aware. “Ah,” you say, “but I already am aware, otherwise I wouldn’t be a writer.”
But let me ask you this, how well do you know your characters? Do you simply move them about on the page doing “things” just so you can get them to the next scene? Or do you actually reach in and touch their hearts? Do you know their favorite color? Do you know an event that took place in their life that has shaped them into who they are now? When you're reading your pages, do you love or dislike your characters as if they are real people?
There’s an entire world out there that we need to be listening to. Doing this helps us shape our worlds on the page, invoke real emotions into our characters, and gives us insight into things we would have never thought to put on the page before. There are some crazy people out there whom the world might love reading on the page one day. Why? Because their story to craziness may be the most heart wrenching thing humanity has ever read or seen. You never know.
If you haven’t stepped away from your computer in a while, I urge you to right now. Even if it’s a quick run to the grocery store. Try to tune into what the world wants to tell you. If you can, go to a soup kitchen, volunteer your time for a day (hopefully for more) and as people talk to you, just listen with complete gullibility. If we listen this way our thoughts are kinder and we turn off what WE want to say or hear.
I’m in no way expressing that we should only volunteer in soup kitchens to help our writing, but what I am saying is that by doing these small acts of kindness, our souls become full and help us see the rawness of life—the fullness of life.
If we are going to write something that matters, see our characters truths, we need to step out of our comfort zones and listen to people who want to be heard. There's a deep longing to want to be heard in all human beings, and we are given a gift to share it on the page. The written word is one of the most powerful things that exists, so reach in deep, even if it hurts and as Thomas Wolf once said, "Writing is easy. Just put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and start bleeding.”